Warring Alliances Ahead of 2024 LS Polls 

The political churning has begun ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, which are less than a year away. Although Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United president Nitish Kumar has taken the initiative to cobble up the Opposition unity and managed to ensure 16 out of 17 parties attended the first meeting he convened in Patna on June 23, now the Congress seems to have hijacked the ‘unity efforts’ and succeeded to swell that number to 26 parties for the second meeting, underway in Bengaluru. Those who are ganging up under the umbrella are either caught or convicted of graft charges or are out on bail in money laundering cases. This includes the Gandhis, Sonia and Rahul. And those convicted and served jail terms are Lalu Prasad Yadav of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in the multi-crore fodder scam and A Raja and Kanimozhi, both Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), in the 2G scam involving crores. And this alliance led by the Congress, has a common agenda – that’s to overthrow or defeat the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The reasons they cite are that the NDA government is not only destroying the Constitutional institutions but also ruining the country’s economy, besides misusing the central investigative agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Income Tax, against its political rivals. People tend to believe this, although there are hardly any charges levelled and proved against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs, MPs, as when Opposition leaders join the NDA, corruption cases against them are dropped.

Those arrested under money laundering and criminal cases during this dispensation are being denied bail by the lower as well as higher courts, resulting them languishing in prisons. Despite their petitions over alleged misuse of the Central agencies, the apex court looks unperturbed in dismissing, unlike when it castigated the CBI as the ‘caged parrot’ during the Congress-headed governments at the Centre. Yet, they unabashedly find fault with the apex court and quite often express their displeasure when the verdicts go against them, which includes accusations against the 36 Rafale jet deal from France. Interestingly, some of those within this new alliance are those who accused the Congress as ‘fountain head of corruption’ and also Lalu Prasad Yadav, like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) headed by Arvind Kejriwal. What is astonishing is that Kejriwal, who too is  under the central agencies’ lens over his government’s alleged involvement in corruption cases, including the Delhi excise policy, in which two of its ministers are languishing in prisons having denied bail several times, is also a part of this meeting. Not to forget, the  AAP was born to fight corrupt Congress and others, and today forms part of this alliance! And the reason is loud and clear as its objective is to defeat the BJP. Yes, single point agenda of  ‘Modi hatao’, as if one individual is responsible for everything.

Contrary to this the BJP, which has realized that the 2024 general elections are no cakewalk as its 38 per cent vote share is not sufficient to defeat combined Opposition candidates against its nominees, has also made efforts to pull up sleeves and strengthen its alliance. This includes those who walked out of the NDA alliance,  like the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Telugu Desam or the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), to name a few. However, the recent breakup in the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, wherein Eknath Shinde could engineer the coup, by roping in  majority of the Shiv Sena legislators, only to strengthen the BJP and NDA. Added to that is yet another break up in the Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, which has further strengthened the alliance’s poll prospects in the state. The BJP under JP Nadda looks determined to increase its vote percentage and hence make all-out efforts to rope in political parties of all sizes and characters, deviating from its commitment to fight corruption and anti-national forces. This is evident from the majority of parties whom they had accused of serious corruption charges are being welcomed as alliance partners.

More blatantly visible is the NCP leader Praful Patel who was till recently considered as the lieutenant of Sharad Pawar, or Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, or the BJP’s leader of Opposition in West Bengal assembly Suvendu Adhikari. Even others in various small parties who are allegedly accused of graft charges are also being welcomed into the fold. Overlooking the fact brazenly, the BJP chief is trying to justify that none of those who are facing charges or cases, will be spared and will be dealt with as per law. This is despite the Opposition branding the BJP as a ‘washing machine’. Thus far the ‘alliance versus alliance’ politics is becoming curious as there are several fence-sitters among the Opposition ranks too. They are the BJD headed by Naveen Patnaik in Odisha, Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh, besides the newly-formed Bharat Rashtra Samiti of Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao in Telangana. Interestingly, KCR, who was the first to initiate Opposition unity sans the Congress and BJP, appears to be neutralized as he is apprehensive of losing ground in his home turf, following the Congress party’s massive win in neighbouring Karnataka. However, the BJD and YSRCP backed the NDA at the Centre in the past.

Against that backdrop, the battle lines appear to have been drawn – Hatao Modi of the Congress-led alliance Vs Desh Bachao’s slogan of the BJP-led NDA alliance. However, the BJP looks more comfortable and confident in accepting the ‘Big Brother’ role in the NDA, which is not so of the Congress in the alliance it choses. However, to enjoy that status in its group, Congress has to retain power in states like Rajasthan and Jharkhand, besides Madhya Pradesh where elections are due this year-end if it wishes to attain better bargaining power. Added to its woes are the Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party, besides the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam unwilling to spare considerable seats for it in bigger states like West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu respectively. On the contrary the BJP, with major states like UP and Maharashtra under its belt, is confident of retaining power in Madhya Pradesh, besides retrieving Rajasthan, which it lost by a whisker in the last elections, thereby improving its Lok Sabha poll prospects. In Bihar, it is confident of repeating its 2019 Lok Sabha fete. The asset of the BJP and its NDA allies is the towering and indisputable, besides the cleanest, politician that independent India has produced – Narendra Modi. Thus far, the 2024 Lok Sabha polls are bound to generate more heat and interest than ever before as it is ‘now or never’ for the  Congress and other Opposition party leaders, who are scared of being pushed behind bars in various cases they are facing ahead of the elections. One has to wait and see how the people opt to vote in the half-a-dozen state polls this year- end and also the Lok Sabha elections next year.